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Mediavision

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This past September and early October we partnered with Mediavision Academy in Kampala, Uganda to offer one of our most successful workshop series to date. Mediavision Academy is a tertiary training institute that offers professional courses and diplomas in television, film, and radio production. It is also impressively the fastest growing film school in Uganda.

Mediavision Director, Robert Nkambo, addresses the audience at our graduation event.
Mediavision Director, Robert Nkambo, addresses the audience at our graduation event.

I had actually met Mediavision’s Director, Robert Nkambo, last year while visiting the set of a public service announcement being shot in Kampala. We immediately hit it off, and Robert showed strong interest in bringing Bent Marble’s workshops to his institution in the future. And thanks largely to his vision and persistence, a year later we have completed an amazing documentary filmmaking training program at his school.

One of the things that stood out most about Bent Marble to Mr. Nkambo, and indeed to many of the workshop participants, was how our teaching methods are highly hands-on and practical, allowing students of various experience levels to both learn faster and also share what they know. Perhaps no one has ever made this point as eloquently as Robert, himself. So let’s have a listen now to his wise words:


And perhaps no one could put a more highly-energized “exclamation point” on this theme, of the benefits of hands-on education, than workshop participant, and actor, Mulangira Chapman:

As alluded to earlier, the experience levels of the participants ranged from total novice to professional filmmaker. We even had an international award-winning journalist in our roster! But across the board, the more experienced did a highly commendable job helping their less-experienced classmates, both in explaining theories and techniques, as well as in teaming up together to make the actual films. In particular, Ugandan filmmaker and workshop co-facilitator, Raymond Kaddu, made strong teaching contributions during our unit on editing with Adobe Premiere. While most of the class was discovering the magic and potential of video editing, Raymond was more discovering the magic and potential of teaching! Let’s hear from him now as he discusses what it was like to be thrown “in the thick” of teaching this rather complex skill, to a group with vastly varying experience levels:

Now the documentaries produced by these diverse individuals were on an equally diverse array of topics, including entrepreneurship, youth mentorship through the creative arts, environmentalism, and even motor sports! In the end this cohort produced more films in a single workshop than any group to date. And their works are among the highest in caliber as well. So let’s have a look now at the fine films they produced:


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(Click here to visit Bent Marble on YouTube)


Due to Mediavision having its own staff of talented photographers, we also have a real wealth of photos to share with you this time, that truly capture the energy, focus, teamwork, and joy that characterized our workshop series and graduation ceremony:

Generated by Facebook Photo Fetcher 2



In conclusion, I’d like to say that it was a really wonderful experience for me, personally, facilitating these workshops and, even more so, being welcomed into the Mediavision family. All the people who work at Mediavision, as faculty, administrators, and support staff, are truly kind, talented, and dedicated individuals. And the workshop participants were so incredibly enthusiastic, both about learning new professional skills, as well as crafting their own creative works. Having had such a positive experience, I know that Bent Marble will return to Uganda in the future, and I know that we will work with Mediavision again and continue this fruitful partnership.

The entire Mediavision family of staff and students from our workshops.
The entire Mediavision family of staff and students from our workshops.


Interestingly, this also marks the very first time that Bent Marble has ever returned to teach in a country. And one hundred percent of the credit for making this return voyage happen goes to Robert Nkambo, for keeping in touch with us on social media over the last year, and truly being persistent in pursuing this amazing collaboration.

What can I say, the man’s got vision. Mediavision!

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Tumaini la Maisha

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This past August we facilitated an inspirational workshop that in many ways broke the mold for Bent Marble. For starters, we worked with participants much younger than we normally do… children actually… and as young as 5 years of age! The works they made also were not limited to the genre of documentary. For in addition to conducting interviews, they also composed and directed a series of skits, that while based on their life experiences, were acted out. A final thing that made this workshop different was that the participants were not just any group of kids, but patients receiving life-saving treatment in the children’s cancer ward at Muhimbili National Hospital in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

For this project we partnered with the Tanzanian-based NGO, Tumaini la Maisha, which means “Hope for Life” in Swahili. TLM’s goal is both simple and profound: to provide ready, local access to high quality treatments to all children with cancer in Tanzania. Importantly, TLM understands that a successful treatment program doesn’t just involve the medical components, but also the psychological and social ones. For that reason they provide ample educational, recreational, and even artistic services and activities to their patients, who often reside in the children’s ward for up to a year while receiving treatment. And this is where Bent Marble and our documentary-“ish” workshops fit in.

Let’s now take a moment to hear from Tumaini la Maisha Psychosocial Program Manager, Beatrice Millinga, who talks about the benefits of these extracurricular programs, as well as of the impact that our filmmaking workshops specifically had on the kids.


As previously mentioned the films the children made in the workshops were a combination of both documentary and fiction. In the documentary portions, the students interviewed each other on personal themes ranging from friendship, to social pressure they face as young people, to life in the hospital. And in these conversations their strength, humor, and love and support for one another really shined through. The fictional skits they made touched on equally significant topics. One highlighted the risks of child marriage (still a common practice in certain parts of the country) and the associated risk of dropping out of school. Another addresses the dreams that each child holds for the future. And their final film, entitled Maisha ya Muhimbili (or “Life in Muhimbili Hospital), portrayed the journey of two families taking their sick child through the process of entry and treatment in the national hospital, itself.

This film turned out to be an particularly poignant piece, as it provides a strong example of how a population facing great challenges can express their experiences, hopes, and fears in a creative way that empowers them, as well as potentially helps countless future patients and families like their own. Indeed, TLM plans to use this film as part of their orientation process for new families admitting their sick children to the cancer ward. For who better to let you know what to expect, than the very people who have been through it themselves!

So let’s take a look now at the amazing pieces produced by these young filmmakers:

Ndoto Yangu

Maisha ya Muhimbili

(Click here to visit Bent Marble on YouTube)



In addition to playing all the roles in their skits (from patients, to parents, to nurses and doctors), it is so important to note that the children, themselves, also performed all aspects of their films’ pre-production, production, and post-production. They came up with the ideas and scenarios, rehearsed the scenes in their free time, directed and performed the videography on shoot days, selected which takes would make the final cut, and created the titles and credits for the finished films.

It has been said that filmmaking is “a team sport”, in the sense that it typically requires the coordinated efforts of many individuals, each playing their part, in order to succeed. And with Tumaini la Maisha, it really was the case, and as never before in our program’s history. Even the parents and guardians of the patients, who often live full-time in the ward along with their sick children, got involved.

Let’s take a look now at a photo album from our Facebook page that captures this amazing team effort throughout the workshop series.

Generated by Facebook Photo Fetcher 2



I would like to offer a HUGE thanks to pediatric oncologist and TLM Director, Dr. Trish Scanlan, for having the foresight to see how Bent Marble’s workshops could potentially benefit TLM’s kids, and for encouraging us to “break the mold” and get involved. Indeed, “Dr. Trish”, as TLM staff and patients affectionately call her, has played a critical role over the years in ensuring the continuity and success of the children’s cancer treatment program. And I encourage all of you to learn more about what Tumaini la Maisha does, by checking out (and “Liking”) their Facebook page, We Are TLM.

TLM Psychosocial Manager, Beatrice Millinga (center), and TLM Program Director, Dr. Trish Scanlan (right), enjoying watching the films with the students.
TLM Psychosocial Manager, Beatrice Millinga (center), and TLM Program Director, Dr. Trish Scanlan (right), enjoying watching the films with the students.


I’d also like to extend my gratitude to TLM Psychosocial Manager, Beatrice Millinga, and TLM volunteer, Alice Frank, for being our co-facilitators, translators, and overall partners-in-crime throughout the workshops. Nothing would have gotten done on the ground without them, and they were indeed the “glue” between myself, the patients, and their families.

TLM volunteer, Alice Frank, helps the participants prepare to film an interview.
TLM volunteer, Alice Frank, helps the participants prepare to film an interview.


I am left thinking of a phrase, from the field of education, about how we often learn more from our students than they from us, as teachers. This is certainly the case for me in regards to the workshops with these inspirational young individuals. Each time I think about my experiences with them, tears well up in my eyes for the strength, resilience, innocence, and joy they showed, while face to face with a fight against a life-threatening illness. And each time the enormity of this indescribable lesson gives me pause for reflection on the precious value of each of our lives.

But beyond what they did for me on a personal level, they also made Bent Marble something different, and something more than it was before. They catalyzed a methodological metamorphosis, to include fictional and dramatized elements in Bent Marble projects, as a way to strengthen and expand the documentary’s narrative argument. And they opened our eyes to the possibility of working with populations much younger and more (for lack of a better term) “at-risk” than we ever would have dared to in the past. So in a very real way, they have breathed new life into Bent Marble, itself.

So with love, respect, and great gratitude we wish each and every one of these inspirational young filmmakers a complete recovery, and a life full of many more stories to share!

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Shared Space

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This past August we facilitated a truly fantastic workshop series at Nafasi Art Space in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. One of the premiere centers for contemporary art in the country, Nafasi Art Space hosts a myriad of art-related events, including exhibitions, film screenings, concerts, performances, artist “hangouts”, professional trainings, and workshops, like our own. In addition, their impressive campus houses over 32 studios, utilized by more than 60 member artists. These workspaces, most of which are actually made from huge, metal, freight containers, are arranged in a roughly semi-circular formation around the campus. This configuration, along with the collaborative ethos of the organization, itself, creates a unique feeling of shared space at Nafasi, where artists can constantly be found interacting, sharing ideas, collaborating on projects, and also socializing together.

nafasiartspace_panorama
A panorama of the beautiful Nafasi Art Space campus in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.


The cohort of participants that we had in this workshop series was unusual in that the vast majority already had a high level of experience in media making. Indeed, some were already professional filmmakers and videographers, while the rest were largely university students, studying film, graphic design, or multi media. The group was also unusual in that it was very large, consisting of around 18 individuals (normally in our workshops we have 10-12 participants). Knowing that it would be a challenge to work with a group this size, I immediately sought out the assistance of two of Nafasi’s member artists, who work as professionals in the field of film and video production, Abdallah Mambia and Nkumi Mtingwa.

abdallah_storyboarding
Facilitator, Abdallah Mambia, draws an example storyboard on day two of the workshops.

On the first day of the workshops, where students choose, discuss, and refine the topics for their documentaries, we broke the class into two groups, with one facilitated by myself, and the other by Abdallah, who really saved the day. On the second day of the workshops, Abdallah continued his strong contribution by doing a presentation on storyboarding, a key component of pre-production. Storyboarding is a way to plan, organize, and truly “pre-visualize” a film, by drawing a sequence of cells representing the various shots that will appear in your intended motion picture. The resultant storyboard looks much like a rudimentary comic book, and serves as a blueprint for the filmmaker as she/he approaches their shoots.

Coming more, myself, from a tradition of observational cinema (in which one lets the story, more or less, unfold naturally before the camera), storyboarding was not one of my strengths. Yet I have come to find that developing this skill can be extremely beneficial, and especially to beginning documentary filmmakers, to help ensure that they go about their first projects with a clear, and visual, plan. For this reason it was wonderful to collaborate with Abdallah, whose capacities complemented my deficiencies. And based on what I’ve learned from him, I plan to introduce and utilize the concept of storyboarding in future Bent Marble workshops. Let’s hear now from Abdallah, himself, as he talks not only about the importance of storyboarding, but also about that of documentary filmmaking, as well as his overall experience of the workshops.



In a subsequent workshop, another Nafasi member artist, Nkumi Mtingwa, who specializes in animation and visual effects for film, did an outstanding presentation on using motion graphics to “add value” to one’s documentary productions. This included specific techniques to add motion to photos and titles, as well as methods of “branding” one’s film, through designing custom motion graphic elements. What was intended to be a mere one-hour lesson, was so captivating and relevant for this class of advanced learners, that Nkumi ended up teaching for the entire three-hour session! And the footprints of the professional concepts that Nkumi taught can be seen in the students’ final films. So let’s hear from Nkumi, in his own words, as he elaborates on the benefits of using motion graphics, as well as discusses the recent growth of the documentary genre in Tanzania.



Notably, as the workshops progressed, several of the participants, themselves, also stepped to the plate (or the laptop in this case), to share what they knew on topics ranging from cinematic depth of field, to color correction, to audio noise reduction. All in all, there was probably more sharing of knowledge, and indeed of the very role of instructor, in this workshop series, than in any other to date. And I strongly feel, because of this particular cohort’s high level of media making experience, that this practice served to maximize learning and intellectual engagement for all.

Unsurprisingly the films made by this talented, mutually-supportive group are truly outstanding, executed with high production value, and covering fascinating topics ranging from the struggles of a motorcycle taxi driver, to how foreigners are perceived in Tanzania, to an aspiring hip hop artist turned lawyer, to the hard life of a vegetable vendor. So without further ado, I’d like to share with you these amazing stories:

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(Click here to visit Bent Marble on YouTube)


As an interesting side note, my living arrangements in Dar es Salaam also had a significant impact on the workshops. In order to keep Bent Marble’s costs down, we now ask that our organizational partners provide us with housing for the duration of our workshops. Nafasi Art Space graciously put me up in their guesthouse, which is located in the nearby neighborhood of Mwenge. There, my roommates were Nafasi Program Assistant, Nicholas Kimaro, and South African visiting artist-in-residence, Francois Knoetze. Living with them was a great opportunity to have some immediate friends in this giant megalopolis, as well as people with whom to share meals and spend free time. Interestingly, both of my flatmates ended up playing an important role in the workshops too, as Nico (as Nicholas prefers to be called) made sure our projector and incredibly heavy sound system were setup and functioning each class day. And Francois, himself a talented video artist (in addition to costumer designer and performance artist), presented one of his abstract, yet documentary-esque, pieces to the class, to help expand their minds as to what constitutes a documentary. So once again, the sharing of space led to kindly collaboration and fruitful results in Dar es Salaam.

Have a look now through a photo gallery from our Facebook page that captures and conveys the entire process of these workshops… from day one, to the countless contributions of our co-facilitators, to the successful public screening event and awarding of certificates.

Generated by Facebook Photo Fetcher 2


Before signing off I’d like to offer a big, BIG thanks to Nafasi Art Space Managing Director, Rebecca Corey, Administration Manager, Maria Kessi, and their wonderful support staff and interns, for finding and enrolling an amazing group of participants, organizing and promoting our workshops and final screening event, giving us a cozy place to stay and lunch every day, and inviting us to come back again next year (hint, hint!!:). It was a really wonderful experience, with many, many new friends made from throughout the Nafasi community.

And as a final thought, as a budding student of Swahili, Tanzania’s national language, I have recently come to understand that the word, nafasi, actually means “space” or “opportunity”. And it is clear to me that by sharing space, in so many ways, this past August, we also had an amazing shared opportunity to learn from each other and grow, as teachers, as filmmakers, and, speaking for Bent Marble, as an organization as well. So with all this in heart and mind, I’d humbly like to say,

Asante sana, Nafasi!!

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Crash Course

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This past July we had the unique opportunity to take our documentary filmmaking workshops to the Zanzibar International Film Festival, the premiere film festival in East Africa, held annually on the picturesque island of Zanzibar, just off the coast of mainland Tanzania. As the festival itself spanned only nine days, and we were included as just a part of its vast programming, our typically three-week workshop had to be condensed into just five days, making it a true crash course!

Taking on this unique challenge, our group of participants was an interesting mix, ranging in age from early twenties to mid-sixties, and in experience from award-winning filmmakers to total novices. Thankfully the seasoned filmmakers, across the board, were extremely generous, by sharing what they knew, as well as sharing their filmmaking equipment, and even teaming up with those with less experience on their filmmaking projects.

Kinyanjui David assists his filmmaking group members in the sound mix of their film, Mwalimu Hassan.
Kinyanjui David (right) supervises his filmmaking group members during the sound mix of their short film, Mwalimu Hassan.

Of particular note was Kenyan filmmaker, Kinyanjui David, who both won the award at ZIFF this year for best short film, as well as did the sound mixing on the film that won this year in the best feature category. Considered by many to be the number one location sound recordist in Kenya, he naturally became a co-facilitator in the workshop, by teaching the unit on sound recording. And along with two beginning filmmakers, he also shot and directed a documentary in the workshop itself, Mwalimu Hassan, that stands as one of the very best films every made in our course… and in only five days!

Another key contributor in our workshops was Tanzanian photographer and filmmaker, Alfredy Jackson. While starting off as a participant, Alfredy soon also became a co-facilitator, by helping several groups with the editing of their projects, as well as by providing much-needed assistance with translation. Let’s now hear directly from Alfredy and other participants about their experience of the workshops:

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Besides being much, much shorter than our typical courses, our workshops with ZIFF also marked the first time that our head facilitator, Steve Clack, taught in a region where he did not speak the native language… Swahili in this case. While many students, luckily, were proficient in English, a good portion of the class was not. For this reason we had an English-Swahili translator, Malik Kiki, on the first days of our workshops. And when Malik could no longer attend, participants like Kinyanjui David, Alfredy Jackson, and Tanzanian director, Jackson Fute, stepped up to make sure that everyone stayed up to speed with the material covered. It was truly amazing how well things functioned, under this impromptu teamwork. And it opened our eyes to the potential of bringing our workshops to ANY world region… no longer limiting ourselves by the few languages that we speak.

At the conclusion of the workshops, ZIFF truly gifted us all with a fantastic finale, by letting us premiere our films on the big screen on the final night of the festival to a capacity audience. The main stage, of note, is situated in an amphitheater inside an enormous, ancient, stone-walled fort by the sea. It was truly a magical, momentous, and unforgettable experience for us all. And we’d like to share with you now, as well, the experience of watching these fine films for the first time:

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(Click here to visit Bent Marble on YouTube)



And to give you a better idea of the entire process of our workshops and time at ZIFF, have a look now through this photo gallery from our Facebook page:

Generated by Facebook Photo Fetcher 2



In conclusion we’d like to thank Zanzibar International Film Festival President and CEO, Dr. Martin Mhando, for inviting us, ZIFF Workshops Coordinator, Edima Otuokon, for providing us support on the ground, the Double Tree Hotel in Stone Town, Zanzibar, for providing us the space to teach our workshops, and the entire ZIFF community, for welcoming us into their family and helping our budding filmmakers realize their dreams!

Having had such a wonderful experience, we truly hope to return and offer another documentary crash course next year at ZIFF, which will notably mark the festival’s 20th anniversary. Indeed, several of this year’s participants mentioned that they’d be interested in taking the workshops again, to learn more about documentary filmmaking and to make another film… but that they also wouldn’t mind having just a bit more time to do it. 🙂

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Library Life

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This past November and December we had the opportunity to work with a talented and amicable group of adult employees from the Parque Biblioteca (public library park) in San Javier, Medellín, Colombia. This neighborhood sprawls along the hillside in Comuna 13, in the western-central part of the city. The slope of this area is so steep, in fact, that the district is served by a public cable car system! But sharp slopes, unfortunately, aren’t its only challenges, as San Javier also has had the reputation of being among the poorest and most dangerous neighborhoods in Medellín.

Fortunately, Medellín’s system of library parks, stunning architectural complexes that combine library buildings with ample green space around them, were created to address the need for more cultural and education space and public services in such less affluent neighborhoods. And the cohort of workshop participants that we worked with at the Parque Biblioteca San Javier are the very individuals charged with developing and providing these crucial programs.

The films this group produced varied greatly in terms of the cinematic techniques they employed, ranging from time-lapse, to photo essay, to archival material-based, to highly impressionistic and abstract. Thematically, however, they were much more consistent, being mostly about the library park and its programs. Interestingly, this marked the first time that our workshops were largely employed to empower the personnel of an organization with new skills with which they can serve their institution. But importantly, each piece was also made in a strong personal voice and style that made it all the more compelling and entertaining. So without further ado, have a look now at these intimate and “institutional” works:

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While we typically have worked with youth in our courses, more and more we have also been facilitating workshops with adult populations… and we absolutely love it! Overall, the degree of creativity and discipline shown by our older students has been highly impressive, giving the younger folks a real “run for their money”. And truly the technologies that our curriculum is based around, like the public libraries themselves, are for everyone, and should be shared as such.

In this workshop series we also had the pleasure of collaborating with two talented facilitators from Medellín, Cristina Abad and Luis Felipe Quintana. Cristina, a seasoned freelance photographer with a strong background in documentary, imparted her great knowledge of composition, exposure, lighting, and working with subjects on a captivated audience of participants. Luis Felipe, a filmmaker and employee of the library park itself, shared his ample understanding of composition and editing, as well as assisted greatly with translational assistance in Spanish. So let’s have a listen now to what these two teaching artists had to say about their experience of the workshops:

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Along with disciplined students, and fantastic facilitators, the library also afforded us great facilities, including an impressive on-site theatre where we held our final screening event, as part of the library’s year-end community open-house extravaganza. This provided our blossoming filmmakers both a large audience and deluge of positive feedback on their new works. Have a peek now at a photo gallery from our Facebook page which highlights the entire process of this workshop series, from the initial formation of film ideas to their final presentation:

Generated by Facebook Photo Fetcher 2



And finally I’d like to offer our great gratitude to Nathalia Miranda Ortiz, from the Alcaldia de Medellín, and Eliana Maldonado, Director of the Parque Biblioteca San Javier, for believing in Bent Marble and giving us the space, students, and support to realize all this great work. We really rely whole-heartedly on our organizational partners, and sincerely hope to return and expand upon the programs we offer in the library parks and in this great city, as our experience here has truly breathed new life into Bent Marble.

¡Viva la biblioteca! ¡Viva Medellín! Let’s keep this marble rolling!

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Lessons from the Street

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This past November and December, through our partnership with the Alcaldia (mayor’s office) of Medellín, I had the privilege of working with an exceptional group of adult students from Comuna 11, a neighborhood in the western-central zone of the city. Working both individually and in small groups they produced an extraordinary set of films, most of which were about different aspects of street culture. Their specific topics ranged from street musicians and performers, to caring for strays and other animals, to the bicycling community. Have a look now at some of their impressive works:

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(Click here to visit Bent Marble on YouTube)



This cohort, consisting of university students, artists, civil servants, and professionals in various fields, was probably the most diverse group, demographically and personality-wise, that I have ever worked with. And I was extremely impressed with how well they “gelled”, quickly forming new friendships and helping one another with their projects, both in and out of the classroom. By the end of the course more than one participant had commented privately to me how much they enjoyed meeting their classmates, and how they felt they wouldn’t have had this opportunity if not for the workshops. And importantly, this marked a significant, real-world lesson for Bent Marble as well.

While we, as an organization, are primarily concerned with promoting cross-cultural understanding and friendship between countries and continents, this most recent observation demonstrates that we can also do this, to an extent, WITHIN the workshops as well. And bridging cultural and “subcultural” divides within a community is equally important, and perhaps even more directly impactful. So with this in mind, moving forward we will definitely seek to have greater diversity represented within our workshops and public screening events.

Take a gander now at an image gallery from our Facebook page that shows this diverse group in action, in class and at their successful screening events:

Generated by Facebook Photo Fetcher 2



A second lesson learned from our experience in Medellín expands on Bent Marble’s value of using resources that already exist in the community. While most of our past students have been first-time filmmakers, as of late, we have also been encountering more and more who have made films before, or who have academic or professional backgrounds in visual communications or multimedia. During the workshop series in Comuna 11, the first one I’ve taught in Spanish without the “safety net” of an assistant for translation, I was still, at times, graciously assisted by a few of the students. For instance, participant and now workshop co-facilitator, John Álvarez, was experienced with Adobe Premiere video editing software. And when I drastically needed to rest my language cortex, he was there to explain in his mother tongue some of the most complicated things on our plate!

On a similar note, other participants, with ample understanding of camerawork and photography, were able to benefit the class by sharing what they knew as well. In this manner we formed a unique environment in which multiple individuals were empowered to contribute to the best of their abilities, and to the educational benefit of all. This second pedagogical point gleamed from our workshops, the concept of capitalizing on the experience and expertise that already exists in each group of participants, felt so important, in fact, that we added it to our official educational philosophy!

And now lets hear from some of the co-facilitators and participants themselves, as they comment on their experience of the workshops:

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Before signing off I’d also like to offer my sincere gratitude to Natalie Montoya Montaño and Catalina Gaviria of the Alcaldia of Medellín for all their help in finding a group of talented participants, arranging the physical space for the workshops, and organizing two highly successful screening events (one private and one very public). I know it meant a lot to our new filmmakers to share their works, hot-off-the-press, with such a large and appreciative audience. And it is experiences like these that will further inspire them to continue making films, and share their unique perspectives on Medellín’s city streets… and the world!

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Movies in Manizales

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This past September we took our free workshops to the picturesque mountain city of Manizales, Colombia. While stunningly beautiful, this region has also been plagued in the past by violence, due to guerilla and paramilitary activity, as well as poverty in certain neighborhoods. In Manizales we had the good fortune to partner with CINDE, la Fundación Centro Internacional de Educación y Desarollo Humano (the International Foundation for Education and Human Development). And with the assistance of their gracious staff, we offered workshops to participants in two CINDE affiliate programs that focus on peace-building through educating at-risk youth and young adults, Constructores de Paz (Builders of Peace) and Huellas de Vida (Footprints of Life). But rather than tell you how the workshops went, why don’t we hear this time from some of the participants themselves:


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And here are the fine finished films they produced, covering a wide variety of topics, including street art, community-building, sports, and the environment:


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(Click here to visit Bent Marble on YouTube)



And last, but not least, here are some photos from our FaceBook page that show these new filmmakers in action:

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Admittedly it has been a while since our last blogpost. But in recent months we’ve actually been very busy in the country of Colombia, and will have lots more to report very soon. So stay tuned!

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Livity Africa

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Livity Africa is a South African youth media agency that develops multi-platform content for young people, all produced by young people aged 18 to 25. In addition to creating their own content, this organization is also highly committed to educating the next generation of media makers. Indeed, individuals accepted into Livity’s internship programs are mentored by a team of industry professionals, taught valuable digital media and marketing skills, given a solid sense of the working world, and assisted in securing jobs in the media industry. Specific areas in which they receive training include journalism, design, video, photography, marketing, and PR.

This past month I had the opportunity to facilitate one of Bent Marble’s documentary workshop series with an extremely bright group of interns at Livity’s offices in Braamfontein, Johannesburg. In addition to their already hectic schedule of trainings and projects, they now also had the opportunity to learn key documentary filmmaking skills, as well as to make their own short films.

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Some of the talented interns we got to work with at Livity Africa.

Now while in the “agency world”, media makers are often inclined to use the best filmmaking equipment money can buy (or rent), and to create messages that suit their client’s objectives, in our workshops, as always, we placed emphasis on using whatever filmmaking tools are readily available (however humble they may be), and telling real-life stories from a personal perspective.

I interviewed a couple of these talented interns at the end of the workshops, and it was fascinating to hear what they had to say about the advantages of these very practices. One of them, Fatima, spoke candidly on the issue of using simple tools to shoot and edit a documentary:

Another intern, Lwazi, commented eloquently on the benefits of sharing stories rooted in your own world of experience:

And here’s a sampling of the finished films made by participants in our workshop series at Livity Africa:

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(Click here to visit Bent Marble on YouTube)


Well remarkably, as of this point we have been on the road offering our free documentary workshops for a full year! And we look forward now to returning home to the US for a bit of R&R, and to reflect on the challenges and successes of the past 12 months. We are also greatly excited to power up for the year ahead, in which we plan to take our programs and services to the next level. But more on that after a power nap 😉

Stay tuned!

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Ability

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This past month I had the unique opportunity to facilitate Bent Marble’s creative documentary workshops at Kampala Film School, an affiliate of Kampala University in Kampala, Uganda. This marked the first time that Bent Marble, an organization that strives to simplify and demystify the process of filmmaking, has offered workshops at an established film school. And what a unique experience it was.

As soon as I arrived at Entebbe airport, I was graciously met by KFS co-directors, Arlen Dilsizian and Derek Debru, who had already found me an apartment for my time teaching in Kampala, and who would continue to facilitate nearly every aspect of my professional and social life during my stay in Uganda. I truly cannot thank them enough!

Arlen and Derek also had hand-selected a group of 12 participants for the workshops. These individuals were not actually students from the film school, but rather a highly diverse group of creatives from the community, with backgrounds ranging from sculpture and painting, to musical performance and producing, to photography. While highly artistic, most had no formal background in filmmaking.

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Workshop participants practicing handheld camera work on the campus of Kampala Univeristy.


The students, most of whom were adults in their twenties and thirties, exuded a play-hard-work-hard mentality (not to be confused with a work-hard-play-hard approach;) And many became good friends over the course of my stay, as they often included me in their social outings, both in and out of Kampala.

The batch of films this talented group produced were truly extraordinary, as they chose innovative subjects, ranging from a Muslim female fashionista, to the importance of farming to our future, to a love letter to Lake Victoria! All their films were told in strong personal voices, a trait that Bent Marble highly promotes in its curriculum, as well as conveyed a clear sense of caring towards community, country, continent, and world.

Participants learning editing from workshop co-facilitator, Joshua Waiswa.


While this marked the first film for most participants, one student, Wilberforce Muzahura, had previously taken a filmmaking short course, recently offered at Kampala Film School. In it he had made the beautiful documentary, Trash for Cash, a short about a street kid in Kampala who supports himself by collecting and selling recyclable materials found in junkyards. In Bent Marble’s workshops series, Wilberforce, himself a former street kid, chose another equally compelling documentary subject, Annet, a 10-year-old girl who was born with no arms, yet is remarkably able to do just about everything that children her age typically do! This second film he appropriately entitled, Ability.

Impressively, due to the excellence of Wilberforce’s work on this and his first film, he was recently awarded a full scholarship to attend Kampala Film School’s 3-year degree program in film production beginning this September! As part of his success story, I could not be prouder. And I will eagerly be following his developing career as a filmmaker.

So now, without further ado, I invite you to peruse this latest selection of fine films made in our traveling creative documentary workshops:

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(Click here to visit Bent Marble on YouTube)



And here are some photos from our FaceBook page that show these talented folks in action, throughout the workshop series, and at the final celebratory screening:

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In closing I would also like to thank local freelance video editor and Kampala Film School alumnus, Joshua Waiswa, for graciously agreeing to co-faciliate our editing workshop. What he taught the students about working with interview materials and B-roll, as well as organizing and managing projects, came in clutch, particularly in the last 24 hours before projects were due, as many participants worked round the clock to finish their pieces!

And while discipline and time-management may be hallmark traits of most successful filmmakers, there is no substitute for what these young women and men had in incredible abundance… ability.

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Starting a Movement

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In Movement: Art for Social Change is an NGO based in Kampala, Uganda that implements arts education programs with underserved youth. Their goal is to empower young people through the arts to be active participants in society, and lead creative, productive, and meaningful lives.

Over the past month we had the opportunity to offer Bent Marble’s creative documentary workshops to a talented group of students from In Movement. While the organization typically offers classes in dance, music, theatre, and the visual arts, this notably represented the first time that it offered filmmaking classes to its constituents. And it was an amazing experience, for both teacher and students, from start to finish!

It was truly heartwarming how many of the participants seemed to fall in love with filmmaking over the course of the workshops. Though our classes were officially scheduled to meet for just two hours, it was not uncommon for students to keep working on their projects and learning for several hours more… and even request additional instruction on “off” days, which we were happy to provide. Many are already planning on making more films. And a few have even indicated they would like to pursue careers in the film and video industry, which is currently growing in Uganda.

Particularly impressive was how many developed a strong interest in video editing (an aspect of film production that is often considered tedious and difficult). This was true even for students who had very little prior experience with computers before the workshops! And perhaps most impressively, a couple participants even voiced their desire to pass on the filmmaking “bug”, by teaching others in their communities who don’t typically have access to this type of learning experience.

Have a listen now to a few of our In Movement participants speaking about how Bent Marble’s workshops have made an impact on them:



Participants chose diverse and interesting topics for their documentary projects, many of which had do to with their primary form of artistic expression. Subjects ranged from a local beatboxing instructor, to a dance company that has greatly impacted its members lives, to the importance of practice in breakdancing, to Capoeira (an Afro-Brazilian martial art and dance form that is growing in popularity in Uganda). Have a look now at the fine films produced by these first-time filmmakers, featured on our YouTube channel:

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And finally here are some photos from our Facebook page that show the participants deep in focus, pursuing their new passion, and enjoying the fruits of their labors:

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We would like to offer a special thanks to Rachelle Sloss, In Movement’s Country Director, for graciously welcoming us (sight unseen:) and giving us the opportunity to work with such a fine group of young people. We also are greatly indebted to Youth Program Manager, Ssemaganda Jeff Kenneth, for being our main liaison on the ground, for making sure that all laptops and cameras were ready to go for students working in and out of class on a daily basis, and, perhaps most of all, for making a moving tribute film about the positive impact Bent Marble has made at In Movement.

On a final personal note, we truly look forward to returning to Kampala, Uganda and In Movement in the coming year, not only to continue teaching and facilitating workshops, but also to see what the students have learned and created on their own. After all, once a movement has started it takes on a momentum of its own. And this outcome truly couldn’t make us happier!

Let’s keep this marble… err these marbles… rolling!!